Be There Now

Is This the New Age of Buddhism?

This year's CYMD in Central Park includes several ministers from Asian-based community temples. If these new efforts at outreach succeed, it means that the broader Buddhist community will manifest what is inherent in the historical Buddha's work—reaching out across class and race lines to liberate people one mind at a time.

Some participants are new to CYMD, and some have been on earlier programs. Soto Zen priest Sensei Pat Enkyo O'Hara, whose zendo is only a few blocks from ground zero, will teach this year, along with Loch Kelly, an insight meditation teacher who studied in Sri Lanka; Cyndi Lee, director of OM yoga center (and a practitioner in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition); Venerable Kurnegoda Piyatissa, a Theravadan teacher; popular meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg; and Sensei Bonnie Myotai Treace, vice abbess at Zen Mountain Monastery.

As the author of the classic Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, and founder of this country's first Zen Buddhist monastery, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, who came to America in 1959 to serve as a priest for a Japanese American sangha, or congregation, in San Francisco, became another of the pillars of American Buddhism. In his book Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness, he tried to explain what the sages were saying about how Buddhism would die off over time.

Buddha Park: Venerable Piyatissa greets the crowds at "Change Your Mind Day 2000."
photo: Chris Dinerman
Buddha Park: Venerable Piyatissa greets the crowds at "Change Your Mind Day 2000."

In the first 500 years of Buddhism, called shobo, while Buddha's direct disciples and "grand-disciples" lived, there would be "great sages like the Buddha." In the next 500 years, zobo, there would be imitation. And in the last period, mappo, beginning 1000 years after Buddha's death, "people would not observe the precepts; they would read and chant sutras, but . . . people who practice zazen and understand the teaching would be difficult to find."

Suzuki reminded us, of course, that it is also taught that Buddhist practice "is not disturbed by any framework of time or space," and that Buddha is always here. Most importantly, Suzuki said, "when we really understand what Buddha meant, we are in Buddha's time." Perhaps that is June 8.

For complete "Change Your Mind Day 2002" schedules and details, check www.tricycle. com/newsevents or call 800-950-7008.

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